Exam study tips

For many students, exam times can be very stressful. Some students feel overwhelmed with the amount of information they need to learn and others may feel prepared and then ‘forget’ as soon as they enter the exam room. 

Stress can be healthy when it gives us energy and motivation to study but when you cannot cope, it can become problematic.
Four common negative ways of coping include

  1. worrying too much about exams 
  2. avoiding studies 
  3. making lots of plans which become overwhelming and 
  4. doing things at the last minute. 

We asked our Counsellors for their top tips to help students prepare for exams. 

Exam preparation

Students studying
  • List what you need to know.
  • Sort out your notes and be clear of what you need to do.
  • Commit to a minimum amount of study time each day. Stay positive and focus on what you can do with your time. 
  • Be clear of the exam format and gather previous exam papers. 
  • Aim to revise at least 1-3 exam papers.
  • Aim to finish your revision at least a day before the exam. 
  • Plan how you will learn it: Some people concentrate better at night, others early in the morning.
  • Stick to a consistent working pattern so your mind and body can adjust.
  • Divide your time into blocks and choose one topic to focus on for each block. Take short breaks between each block.
  • Sort out your space. Some people prefer studying alone; make sure there are no distractions. Others prefer a study group if so find a motivated group who can support each other.
  • Manage your stress. This includes physical, emotional and mental stress.
  • Reward yourself after you have successfully completed a task by doing something fun or relaxing.
  • Have a list of relaxing activities such as listening to calm music or taking a bath
  • Make time to exercise, it is good for the brain, it allows you to remember more effectively and relieves stress.
  • Get emotional support from friends, family. 
  • Stay positive and focused on what you can do.

The day before the exam

  • Don’t try and learn any new information.
  • Revise your notes 
  • Do a relaxing activity before sleep.
  • Get a good sleep so you feel rested and alert the next day.
  • Double check the venue and time of the exam, and directions for how to get there

On the day

  • Make sure you eat breakfast. Avoid too much coffee, go for water or herbal tea instead.
  • Leave early in case of traffic or public transport delays

In the exam

Melbourne Showgrounds
  • If you have reading time, scan through the exam and decide how much time you will allocate to each section.
  • Once the exam starts, make a note of your time plan and do your best to stick to it.
  • Understand the question by reading through it. Break the question into smaller parts until you are clear.
  • If you come across a question you don’t know, leave it and come back later.
  • If you have a ‘mental block,’ take some deep breaths, sip water, visualise yourself studying on this topic, jot down any key words or concepts that come to mind.

Coping with anxiety during an exam

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